Welcome to the Steven Soderbergh’s unerotic world of high profile hustling. In The Girlfriend Experience, the award-winning director of Erin Brockovich and Traffic introduces us to Chelsea (played by adult film star Sasha Grey), a high-end Manhattan escort who charges her clientele $2,000 per hour to give them “the girlfriend experience”. His clients, mostly businessmen, treat her to expensive restaurants and luxury hotels while they vent out their frustrations about the stock market or share their problems regarding their wife and kids. Meanwhile, Chelsea listens to them, offers companionship, and makes them feel loved even for just a short while. Sex is not necessarily required, but allowed.
Utilizing an experimental technique, Soderbergh places his camera with a relative distance to his subjects. Coupled with a non-scripted-but-scripted style of narration, the film evokes a voyeuristic feel. During her ‘transactions’, Chelsea gives her patrons what they want but her emotions are secured behind walls of hard bricks. Impenetrable. Well, almost. Because underneath her Michael Kors dress and expensive jewelry is a fragile woman crushed by the consequences of the choices she had made.
The lo-fi production worked to Soderbergh’s benefit. It’s hard not to recognize the style and technical merits of the film. But it is hard to tell if there is anything else beneath the gimmickry and experimentation. The Girlfriend Experience happens to be too vague in its intentions, and the non-linear overlapping of sequences definitely does not help in elucidating the movie’s focal points.
TAGLINE: See it with someone you ****
DETROIT NEWS SAYS: After it's over, it quickly vanishes from memory, and viewers are on to the next transaction.